My understanding of the seasons of the church calendar (Lent and Advent probably being the most famous) is that they provide an opportunity for us to remember different parts of our faith that we sometimes neglect and to engage in spiritual disciplines that we might overlook.
Giving something up (sweets, for example) during Lent is a pretty common practice where I come from. At the same time, it's easy to tend toward empty legalism I think, fasting for the sake of fasting without it being a means to know God more. Without God at the center, fasting is just a self-righteous diet.
So how can I practice fasting and honor Lent in a way that isn't self-righteous or empty? It's sort of a funny proposition because generally I think our fasting and spiritual disciplines are supposed to be a private affair. I understand Lent to be a little different, a time for the community of Jesus's disciples to corporately engage in repentance and fasting. Which is why I even dare to write about it.
For the first time in a while, I do feel pulled to practice self-denial this Lenten season. These 40 days coincide with a remarkably wild time in my life, and I sense I shouldn't practice any particular strict rule of fasting (or giving up one specific thing). In spite of this crazy transition, and maybe because of it, I'm setting aside now until April 4 (Easter) to practice the spiritual discipline of simplicity. In a way, I hope it will be a combination of little fasts-- from internet distractions, compulsive buying, foods that satisfy my wants and not my needs, media, etc.
More on that another day. In the meantime, I'd love to hear how others of you out there are marking Ash Wednesday and/or Lent. If you have a story to share, leave a comment or send me an email! I want to be encouraged by you, to embrace this season corporately. That won't be possible in the non-liturgical evangelical culture of Peru, but maybe some of you "back home" can help me out.